3/1/2022, Cabot Vermont – Today is Town Meeting Day here in our Vermont. While a community may have many Town Meetings throughout the year, the first Tuesday in March is, for the most part, when all our communities come together to make important decisions for the coming year. From Town budgets to School budgets, from local ordinances to expressing views on a range of topics, Town Meeting is where Vermonters debate and decide on the issues of the day.
And traditionally it is at such Town Meetings that ALL the citizens of a community act as the legislative branch of local government, with the power to publicly debate, make motions, propose amendments, and ultimately vote from the floor on those issues set before them.
Madam President, Madam Speaker, Mr. Chief Justice, members of the General Assembly, and fellow Vermonters:
It is our tradition at the opening of the legislative session to come together and chart our course for the work ahead.
Whether in times of peace or war, prosperity or depression, those who came before us felt the same hope and optimism we share today, ready to do the work to take on new problems and solve those that have eluded us for years.
As some may already know, I was appointed by the Vermont Senate to represent municipalities’ interests on the Cannabis Control Board’s Advisory Committee. While I wouldn’t claim to have the level of “expertise in municipal issues” that some other longer-serving Selectboard members in Vermont might have, I feel that my past work advocating for the rights of towns, cities and villages does give me some insights, and I’m doing my best to represent local taxpayers during many rapid deliberations over the shape of the upcoming retail cannabis marketplace.
I want to make very clear my opposition to a hastily made decision by one of our sub-committees, the Market Structure, Licensing, Taxes and Fees Sub-Committee, without reasonable input taken and considered from the Vermont municipalities. This committee has evidently already voted to “cap” what local town clerks can charge for a cannabis license to $100 yearly, a laughable amount considering the fact that the state portion of yearly fees being currently considered are between $5,000 and $10,000.
As we near the 2021 Vermont AFL-CIO Annual Convention (September 18 & 19 at Jay Peak, Northeast Kingdom) I again ask our 11,000+ Union members to support the full United! slate in our internal elections, including Ron Schneiderman (UFCW) for VP At-Large, Danielle Bombardier (IBEW) for Secretary-Treasurer, Dwight Brown (AFSCME) for Executive Vice President, and myself, David Van Deusen (AFSCME) for re-election to the office of President of our State Labor Council.
Since United! took power in 2019 (and again swept elections in 2020) we have transformed the Vermont AFL-CIO into the most progressive State Labor Council in the United States. Through United! we have also seen the Vermont Labor Movement invigorated with our rank & file taking an active part in Conventions and Political Summits (COPE) at levels not seen in decades. Over the last two years:
Cabot, Vermont, 6/15/21 – With over 80% of Vermonters having received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and nearly 72% of us fully vaccinated, today [6/15/21] the Governor declared an end to the State of Emergency and the termination of pandemic related social restrictions. It is significant that Vermont is the first U.S. State to reach an 80% vaccinated rate. It is also significant that throughout the pandemic Vermont suffered only 24,339 known COVID infections and 256 total deaths; both our infection and mortality rate were the least in the Nation compared to the 49 other States. And while even a single death is a regrettable tragedy, stacked against Alabama’s half a million plus cases and 11,000 (and counting) fatalities, it’s clear that we fared better than most. And while we are not out of the woods yet, we have also emerged with the 5th lowest unemployment rate in the Nation at 2.9% (Texas by comparison is at 6.7% while Florida is at 4.8%).
How did we do this? Well, while much of the South and other parts of the country fretted about masks being an infringement of civil liberties and the vaccine being part of some insane conspiracy, Most Vermonters from the get go cared about their communities, abided by social distancing, wore masks (even before any mandates came into effect), and worked collaboratively in making our society resilient in the face of hardship.
Vermont grants for barn stabilization and restoration. Be sure to see the manual before starting your project, because to be eligible the project may not have been started before the application was submitted.
Vermont sugarhouses are a vanishing landmark and with them their history is at risk of being permanently lost. A statewide network of sugar-making enthusiasts have organized a project to create a comprehensive and descriptive list of all sugarhouses in Vermont with a focus on the oldest sugarhouses.
Once the list is complete the project team will interview sugarmaking families and photograph Vermont sugarhouses. This visual and documented history will be made available for future review and use. The final outcome will be the creation of a photo book to showcase these architectural legacies and landmarks.
On November 3rd Trump lost the Presidential election in Vermont by a wider margin than in any other State in the union. But that did not prevent a couple dozen (peaceful) pro-Trump supporter from demonstrating in front of the Statehouse on January 6th. It was also feared that Trump’s lack of support in the Green Mountains would not prevent a minority of armed extremists from committing acts of violence today [1/17/21] in our Capital.
Warnings that fascists, those who supported the Trump coup, were planning armed actions in all 50 State Capitals in the U.S. were taken seriously here in rural Vermont. Throughout this morning and into the afternoon police in bullet proof vests, military grade helmets, and with automatic rifles in hand patrolled the streets of our Capital City of Montpelier (population: 7,800). The Mayor and City Council issued prior warnings encouraging residents to stay home. Many businesses were closed. And despite the threat of rightwing violence 100 anti-fascists converged on City Hall to demonstrate their support for democracy and unwillingness to concede to fascist threats. And the armed fascists? They were nowhere to be seen.
Vermonters are very quietly passing around on the internet various versions of how they might file a lawsuit against Governor Phil Scott for exceeding his authority with his orders and mandates, making them lose jobs, businesses, income, and warm association with family and friends.
There are various proposed legal Briefs coming to a federal court in Vermont soon:
I have been a perennial losing political candidate in Vermont for many years. One year I really thought I saw election fraud. I was watching the votes coming in, and thousands of votes for me were suddenly cut in half. I wrote a blog post about it at the time which may still be wandering the internet somewhere.
I began to think that Vermont was the testing ground for vote fraud. Vermont has a very small population and if you are a losing candidate, and you are not within a certain tiny percent of the winner, then you have no grounds, no legal cause of action to complain, if for example, you came in 4th and should
have come in 3rd.
It’s true that, given the limited extent of impact and damage in Vermont from the virus, Scott has done a proper job. However he only did what any of us would do. If you recall, one of his earliest public statements was that he was in completely uncharted territory with the pandemic. He didn’t know anything more about it than any of us in the state. So he called the state’s medical team together, got a bit of an education and followed their advice. I’d like to think that all of our governors would have done the same. He was very lucky in this particular crisis to have had the federal government step in fairly quickly with a huge cash infusion that gave us all time to understand and assess the situation and choose our actions under less stressed conditions.
What does the US flag stand for? As far as all of the values of democracy and rights values are concerned we could more be flying a Swedish or French or any number of sovereign flags that would be better representative. Values these days seem to be changing every day and becoming more and more difficult to name and provide evidence. At this point, with our very uncertain future unfolding before us, the US flag may only be representing a certain defined physical territory that our government believes it is legitimately allowed to control and defend. Our fifty states and our several colonies. (The mere fact that we still have colonies, Puerto Rico being the major, immediately throws our supposed values into question). I believe that our real values are reflected in the way we live. We may have a good selection of moral values on paper but they only apply to those who have the money or other means to access them. It was set up this way from the very beginning (using our constitutional convention in 1788 as the beginning) when access to rights, security, comfort was tied to citizenship and private property of which wealth alone is a major part. From day one money and power swamped democracy.
No handshaking and very few face-to-face encounters. Those are some of the major changes to political campaigning during a pandemic. The use of social media will be valuable as we head toward the first Tuesday in November.
Money will still rule because advertising on all levels gets a candidate’s name out there and television, print and other media ads do work. But there is also a potential for lower voter turnout because people may not be bombarded with the usual campaign activity of former years.
My hope is that, on the national level at least, voter turnout will be high because a majority of sensible Americans want to end the great American nightmare and make America sane again.
Below is information that might be helpful to know for August 11th State Primary elections.
Polling place for all three districts in Brattleboro is the American Legion, 32 Linden St., from 7:00 am until 7:00 pm.
Due to COVID-19, masks will be required (and provided if needed) to enter the American Legion for voting, and hand sanitizer or gloves will also be provided. If you are unable to wear a mask and did not vote absentee, there will be a space outdoors for you to vote. Due to social distancing and reduced capacity indoors, please be prepared for potential wait times.
Montpelier, Vt. – Governor Phil Scott, the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) and the Department of Taxes today announced expanded eligibility for Economic Recovery Grants for Vermont businesses negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under the original eligibility criteria, a business was required to have at least one W-2 employee who was not an owner of that business. Starting today, August 3, businesses with at least one W-2 employee – now including those who are an owner – are also eligible and encouraged to apply.
“Businesses of all sizes are doing everything they can to survive under the difficult circumstances caused by this pandemic, and it’s our responsibility to step up and support them in the recovery,” said Governor Scott. “We are hopeful these new requirements will provide some additional relief as we continue to rebuild together and emerge from this crisis stronger than before.”
Montpelier, Vt. – Governor Phil Scott has signed a Directive officially setting Tuesday, September 8 as the universal reopening date for Vermont schools.
“Schools should take this extra time to make sure systems are ready and effective, so we can deliver for our children, and build confidence in the public education system’s ability to be flexible and responsive,” said Governor Scott. “I know none of this has been easy, and I appreciate and have faith in educators and school boards, because I know they are 100% committed to giving kids the educational opportunities and support they need.”
Originally announced on Tuesday, the directive requires all public and independent schools to open for in-person or remote instruction on September 8, with an exception for schools primarily serving students with disabilities, which can restart operations prior to September 8. The Secretary of Education will have oversight and authority in the implementation of the order and local school officials and governing bodies are required to consult with, and abide by, the direction of the Secretary of Education.
Montpelier, Vt. – Governor Phil Scott today signed an executive order to update and extend the State of Emergency in Vermont to July 15. The latest order reflects all current re-openings and eased restrictions, which have been underway since late April to account for the State’s low case counts and continued slow growth rate.
State data and modeling shows overall spread of COVID-19 continues to be limited, even as the state has seen an isolated outbreak with 84 related cases in the Winooski area.
Governor Scott also detailed how a robust testing and tracing program; better knowledge of the virus; greater public awareness of, and adherence to, preventive measures; health and safety requirements across sectors; and increased stock of critical healthcare supplies, the state is much better positioned to track, manage and box in outbreaks and slow spread, which is critical to managing this virus until there is a vaccine.
June, 2020, Burlington, Vermont – On Tuesday June 9 in Burlington, 45 Vermont Labor Unions and allied organizations answered the call issued by AFSCME Local 1343 to picket for job security and a New Deal economic recovery. In a powerful display of progressive Labor unity AFSCME City workers, led by Local President Damion Gilbert and Vice President Jesse Greeno, insisted that the Mayor guarantee that workers and public services come first during these hard times. 1343 further urged the City Council to support a charter change to allow for a wealth tax on the richest residents to better fund public services, and that if cuts need to be made that they come from Police Department equipment & brass and by way of cutting high paid political appointee positions.
Cris Ericson, previously an independent and U.S. Marijuana Party candidate, is now a 2020 Progressive Party candidate for the Vermont primary election August 11, 2020. Absentee ballts are being sent out as early as the last week of this month, June 2020. Candidates have to use new ways to communicate with Vermont voters!
Cris Ericson is also happy to announce that she sees Emily Peyton as a Republican this time, and Boots Wardinski on the 2020 primary election ballot running against Cris Ericson for Governor of Vermont on the Progressive Party 2020 primary election ballot. Good candidates are not defeated because they lose in the past, they just run again! We are like sports teams that lose and lose and never give up and then surprise, surprise, we will win, hopefully in 2020!
Montpelier, Vt. – As state data and expanded testing and tracing capacity continue to support reopening, Governor Phil Scott today announced the resumption of limited indoor seating at restaurants and bars and a data-driven approach to allow travel to and from designated areas without a 14-day quarantine requirement.
“One of the many things that Vermont is so well known for is our great local food and craft brews, so I know how important this sector is to our economy,” said Governor Scott. “I know we still have a very long way to go to help our restaurants get back on their feet but we’ve got to start somewhere and we’ll be able to build on this progress if our numbers continue to move in the right direction.”